Monday, September 6, 2010
Lets Stop Kidding Ourselves
Before I get into the meat of my impromptu and latest political rant let me clearly state that I have the highest respect for Joe Scarborough, a former congressman and co-host of the show “Morning Joe” seen on MSNBC weekday mornings. He and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, run a tight ship with the curious feature of intelligent and lively discussion on current events and issues that the country faces. Given that they face the three morning stooges on Fox Noise, the Imus zombie and his assorted weasels on Fox Business and the drab but well meaning crew on CNN their show is first rate even when you take their competition into account.
I will go even farther and say that I respect Joe Scarborough, a small government conservative, enough to seriously consider voting for him if he should ever run for national office. His positions are almost always intelligent and reasonable, when compared to the reactionary and mindless ideological driven syncopates that run the Republican Party. With Joe’s apparent demeanor and history in Congress I believe he would do his best to represent not just a domineering conservative viewpoint but try and fashion some consensus between the various ends of the American political spectrum. However, I caught the tail end of something mentioned on his show a few days ago that highly pissed me off.
The discussion that morning had turned to the wars being fought in our names and how it is only the men and women of the armed services that are actually fighting while the vast majority of the country continues with their daily lives as if Afghanistan and Iraq are a pair of bad reality shows. Someone must have mentioned bringing back the draft, probably Mike Barnacle, but Joe quickly shot that down with the tried and true answer that I know comforts many suburban middle class parents scared that their precious offspring might someday be forced to go in harm’s way.
Joe said something to the effect that if you ask the generals they do not want an army filled with disgruntled draftees. Now the kicker here is that he is absolutely right, the generals like the all volunteer service and its abilities as compared to the nearly broken force that came out of the 1970’s. The armed forces we had before our involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq were highly trained professionals with the best training and equipment that could have quickly kicked any opponent’s ass then helped rebuild their country. These same service men and women are still the best and now have gazillions of hours of combat experience but they have been overstretched and abused to the point that their effectiveness for any future combat can be questioned. The average American would have to be purposely blind and deaf to the stories of stressed out and broken military families, suicides, along with thousands of injuries both physical and mental our warriors now face after years of unrelenting duty.
Americans here at home are fantastic when it comes to empty platitudes about supporting the troops. I wish I owned stock in a few of the companies that made magnetic yellow “Support the Troops” ribbons that adorn countless SUV’s and wonder how much Lee Greenwood has made in royalties for the millions of times “God Bless the USA” has been played at football games and political rallies to teary-eyed crowds. My problem is that is generally where the middle class support stops.
With the economy in the tank I have no idea how successful the military recruiters are these days but in 2005 when I retired after 21 years of service they were catching hell. The steady stream of high school age kids that for years had been interested in military service had dried up so bad that long time standards preventing those with criminal records and weak education from joining were abandoned. Even worse a “Stop Loss” was put into effect preventing many soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from leaving the service after their term of enlistment was over, a sort of back door draft. Now with patriotism so high you might expect that a good many able bodied civilians would have rushed to join, not only to come to the defense of their country but to relieve the burden on the men and women wearing the uniform.
This is where we really need to stop kidding ourselves, while there were exceptions in the middle class and even from a few families of the elite, no rush to join ever materialized. Excuses abounded for this lapse and since I live in a blood red state where patriotism is supposedly encoded in the DNA I have heard a bunch. Out of all of them my favorite was always when some mom or dad said it was up to their child to make the decision of whether to join or not.
The disturbing idea many would only speak amongst those they thought like minded was that they are not about to offer up their precious child to be sacrificed on the altar of war. Fighting wars are for someone else’s child to do, the completely unspoken thought being that is what the children of poor and working class families are for with the occasional representative from wealthier families.
Since patriotism has not brought the rush to enlist in the face of the latest boogeyman the most glaringly obvious thing to do to relieve the pressure of endless combat tours and bring a broader scope of American society into contact with what we are doing overseas would be to reinstate the draft. This is where the true but much abused statement about the generals not wanting draftees in combat comes into play. It is a very convenient crutch that gives many moms and dads with some sort of conscious the ability to look themselves in the mirror after a military funeral procession drives by or they see video on the evening news of a mom receiving a folded flag
The truth of the matter is that despite the shows of affection and lip service to national ideals and our history we are nowhere near as patriotic as we claim to be. After Pearl Harbor men lined up for blocks at recruiting offices to go fight for their country with some in tears when it was discovered that for some medical reason they could not join. Out of all of it though, the dirtiest little secret of why the draft will never be brought back has to do the fact that if upper and middle class children were forced to participate in our conflicts a massive peace movement would materialize overnight that would make the Vietnam era peace movement look small. Outraged and terrified parents would demand a quick ending to our overseas adventures while college age armchair warriors would make backup plans to flee to Canada.
However, even discounting the failure of hollow American patriotism it all comes down to the fact that those holding the reins of power in this country, in both government and corporations, know what a return of the draft would do and will never let it happened. Far too much money is tied up in overseas endeavors and that is what Americans ultimately care the most about.